In late November, 2011, a strange and troubling event has happened to our studio. We have received an anonymous e-mail which suggested that we should produce some "unconventional" game based upon the materials attached to the letter. Such offers are a dime a dozen and most of the time they barely deserve any attention at all, however, this one seemed quite different.
The attachment contained a set of 19 files added to an archive titled "lestplay". The files (snippets of text, scraps of audio recording, video footage fragments) as well as the style and wording of the message itself appeared to be rather disturbing. The surface examination did not reveal anything straightforwardly terrifying, yet we could not escape the feeling that something truly sinister was lurking underneath.
The stranger was begging us to complete the project he has started, yet he also made us well aware of the risk we took as the proposed ludic situation would potentially explain what calamity befell whoever has compiled the ominous archive, thus urging ourselves to meet the same fate.
The unknown Author was a gentleman and a scholar - he stated that he would introduce no boundaries to our creative freedom, yet he insisted that along with the ludic situation itself the items forming the "lestplay" archive should be included into the game, "else everything would be futile".
Alongside a significant number of others, we tend to lend a certain amount of credibility to mysticism, yet this specific predicament seemed more like a shoddy mystification. We were fed up with a massive number of similar "cursed files" tricks and at times we felt inclined to erase the whole thing for good.
However, upon consideration, we still decided to take part in this experiment. At the very least we would find out what the result would be, and what awful fate would possibly await us, as we will obviously be the first people to play the game.
Please find the initial details of the story below.
There is a wooden house standing in the thick of the forest. A single man resides there.
As of late the house is visited by unusual Guests which knock on the window shutters inviting the hermit to take part in a game of hide-and-seek. The winning condition is simple, you have to remain alive and to retain your sanity till sunrise. This means that approaching the Visitors head-on might be a terrible idea.
As soon as the first Visitor emerges from the thicket - the countdown begins. Every passing hour brings the Guests closer to the house, its walls proving to be an obstacle they are well able to surmount. Something is already inside. Something is opening the window and banging on the cookware. Something has gained control of the cellar and the attic. The floorboards are creaking softly behind the wall.
Hiding alone would never suffice, the Visitors are well aware of your position. Thus, you would have to make your rounds of the house, searching for the breaches that let the creatures of the woods inside and doing your best to mend them.
You could prevent the walls from being breached even more if you keep a close eye on the telltale signs and manage to bring some light into the room which would soon become an area of paranormal activity. The poltergeist would fall back for a while, if only to reappear in some other part of the house.
You could come across some useful loot which might contribute to your survival. The assortment and the stats of the items is always random, and the inventory is limited to 5 slots, so you would have to choose your gear preferences every single night.
If you manage to survive till sunrise, another monster would dissolve and disappear in the first light of dawn. But if the Visitors manage to get you before the sun shines... A mere thought of this outcome is nowhere short of terrifying.
Hide! We have to emulate hide-and-seek with monstrous creatures of nightmares. It turned out to be a hybrid of Lode Runner, Home Alone and Nightmare Ned.
Don’t look now! Keep (your avatar) away from the night visitors. The objective of each new night is to hold out until dawn and stay sane. The Night (a level) lasts for 7-10 minutes each.
Turn on the light! Only illuminated rooms are a safe haven and allow freedom of movement. But the light does not last for long and needs permanent supervision.
Fix the house! The more breaches there are in the house, the more fear, darkness and creatures of the sick mind the hero has to withstand.
- Each night a number of useful tools appear in different rooms.
- The player builds his very own house: any combination of rooms, stairs and doors are allowed. Any new room would increase the total amount of health and safety of the hero and open up new opportunities.
- Every kind of Guest has a unique appearance, damage range, and personal characteristics. New seasons of the game will follow.
- Everything that happens in the house is a clue. Uncover clues, master levels, stay sane and you will eventually expose the underlying mystery.
Since we have launched the project page a week ago, we were asked a lot of questions, mostly concerning the contents of the mysterious archive. Quite a few people wanted to know whether the artwork in the game was "the real deal" and if we have added the character / level graphics into the game straight from the lestplay.rar.
Sorry if it sounds disappointing, yet the answer is no. The visuals we were able to salvage from the archive were merely a number of very loosely made sketches that looked very disturbing, but fairly illegible. Thus, we had to hire a very special artist to handle the art in the game, someone who would be able to make heads or tails of the source material.
So we have contacted MEETHOS, a person we knew as someone quite capable of deciphering the most cryptic ideas, and most importantly, someone totally fearless. We have to say we felt certain relief when we got rid of at least a part of the archive this way.
We have something to say with regard to the methods we use while we try to decipher the Archive. It is a huge puzzle that seemingly lacks logic — though there definitely should be something in common with the materials the Archive consists of... Something that puts it all together. We use these stray fragments to reconstruct the events of the past, to find out what happened to the Originator (or someone close to him).
Our efforts sometimes bear interesting results, some intermediate knowledge that we are willing to share with you.
Specifically, we mean the crisis that takes over our mind whenever we are confronted with something unexplainable within the world that appeared to be quite obvious and predictable.
The Forest speaks to us so we must answer its call.
The Universe wants to communicate something. It changes constantly as if it is attempting to explain something very important, which we still fail to understand. Nevertheless, we try to take part in this conversation, we try to use the language we are being addressed in. And we need your help if we are ever to be able to reach the Originator.We also added a brand new reward-pledging $500.
The game-developing company, Ice-Pick Lodge, was established in 2002 in Russia. The headquarters are in Moscow.
The first two games were awarded a prize for The Most Non-Standard Game at the Russian Conference of Game-Developers KRI in 2005 and 2007, respectively. The games also received high ratings in popular gaming magazines in both Europe and Russia.
We believe that video games are interactive and personal, a new form of art. Video games are a way to engage the player to self-evaluate and realize that his actions in the game also reflect the strengths and weaknesses of his own core being and his destiny (not just the hard drive).
The studio's approach to the gaming process is original and distinctive, because it allows a person to feel, experience, and comprehend the borders of the game, its form, the dialogue of the game and the gamer. If we are making a new kind of game, our addressee isn't the consumer. He is the co-author.
Clearly, our primary goal is to build “a lament configuration of the puzzle box”. When exceeding the claimed amount, we will go deeper in this mysterious adventure and reveal it, layer by layer.
- If we raise more than $45,000
We will be able to release the game for iOS and Android devices.
Most likely we will be able to release the Linux version of the game as well. It is hard to guarantee it now, as it fully depends on whether it would be possible to flawlessly port a Unity 3D game to Linux, and judging by their recent statement (see unity3d.com/linux), the possibility is very high.
- If we raise more than $50,000
The mysterious archive allows us to presume that there is a pet in the house. We only know the name of the creature but for some reason we think that it is a cat. This cat might be able to assist the hero in certain cases, though cats tend to act in a very independent manner - so the player is in for a surprise. We will be able to add the pet to the game if we raise more.
- If we raise more than $60,000
We will be able to add a female playable character... To be perfectly honest, we are not that much allowed to add any arbitrary element to the game - as we already informed you we do not invent this game from scratch - we rather conduct a research, an investigation of what has really happened. However, we consider this decision justified, if not essential, due to the fact that the archive does not definitely state that the hero is male. In this case, an additional, alternative interpretation of events would be of a great benefit to the project.
- If we raise more than $75,000
If you would like to support this project with PayPal, here's the link.
Thank you for your interest. We hope we've piqued your interest in our game and we look forward to your personal involvement in the evolution of this adventure.
- (47 days)